Alleviating gastro-intestinal symptoms and concerns by integrating patient-tailored complementary medicine in supportive cancer care

Eran Ben-Arye*, Michal Livne Aharonson, Elad Schiff, Noah Samuels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & aims: Chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal (GI) toxicities often impair quality-of-life (QOL) and require reduction of the chemotherapy dose intensity. We explored the effects of a complementary integrative medicine (CIM) therapeutic process, administered in conjunction with conventional supportive care, on GI-related symptoms and concerns in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Patients and methods: We conducted a prospective, pragmatic study among patients undergoing chemotherapy referred by their healthcare providers to a CIM-trained integrative physician (IP) for consultation, followed by CIM treatments. Symptom severity and patient concerns were assessed at baseline and at an IP follow-up visit at 6-12 weeks, using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCAW) questionnaires. Adherence to the integrative care (AIC) program was defined as attendance of ≥4 CIM treatments, with ≤30 days between sessions. Results: Of the 308 patients referred to the IP consultation, 275 (89.3%) expressed GI symptoms and concerns, 189 of whom attended the follow-up IP assessment. Of these, 144 (46%) were found to be adherent to the treatment plan (AIC group). Repeated measure analysis indicated a statistical interaction between baseline and follow-up scores, for ESAS (appetite, p = 0.005; drowsiness, p = 0.027; shortness of breath, p = 0.027; and sleep, p = 0.034) and for MYCAW outcomes. This when comparing the AIC to the non-AIC group responses. Reduction of GI concerns (p = 0.024) was greater among patients in the AIC group (MYCAW questionnaire), with significantly less chemotherapy-related hospitalizations found in this group (p = 0.008). The participation of a registered dietitian during CIM treatments led to greater reduction in nausea (from 4.24 to 1.85 vs. 2.73 to 1.36, respectively; p = 0.017). Conclusions: Integration of CIM with standard supportive care, especially in patients adhering to the CIM treatment regimen, may help reduce chemotherapy-induced GI symptoms and concerns, as well as QOL-related non-GI symptoms. Further research is needed in order to explore the effects of specific CIM modalities on GI symptoms and concerns during chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1223
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Appetite
  • Chemotherapy
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Integrative medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Quality of life


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